Once again, "The X Factor" remains a competition on two levels: the contestants battling it out for a $5 million recording contract and the judges jabbing and snipping at each other for bragging rights.
The top 12 took on "songs of the divas" tonight, artists ranging from Shania Twain to Beyonc to Tina Turner, with the usual varying results.
But while there were a few killer moments onstage, the drama mainly played out at the judges' table, where Simon Cowell directed his utter disdain at a new target.
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"I thought the song was boring. It just went on and on and on," Simon told 13-year-old Beatrice Miller after she polished off Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." "For some reason, Britney isn't picking the right songs."
But instead of firing back at Simon himself, as Demi Lovato did so proficiently last week, Britney Spears may have gone a little overboard by attacking the Brit's young charges instead.
"She has more talent in her pinky than you do in all of your contestants today," the pop star fired back, to which Simon retorted, "Not according to the leaderboard last week."
Demi, meanwhile, started with a compliment!
"I listened to Simon. I think he knows what he's talking about," she batted her eyes after Jennel Garcia kicked off the show with "Proud Mary," a performance Simon praised for how different it was than last week's, when he took Demi to task for leading the 18-year-old in the wrong direction.
"I'm glad you listened to me," he winked.
Tate Stevens followed up last week's first-place showing with a very solid rendition of Shania's "From This Moment" that even had Simon praising L.A. Reid's mentoring skills.
Diamond White started off a little flat with Beyonce's "Halo," but she turned it around pretty quickly and finished strong. We're just wondering how long "I'm so glad you're back in the competition" will be part of the commentary.
We also liked Lyric 145's "ET"-"We Will Rock You" mashup, totally getting where Simon was going with the Katy Perry-Freddie Mercury diva characterization.
So why didn't anyone else get it?! Britney wondered why they're not doing hip-hop songs. L.A. mused, "This could be the last time we see you." And Demi understood that Mercury was a diva, but she didn't get where "ET" came in...
"Thank you! We love you, too!" Lyric Da Queen told a fan, blatantly cutting off Demi.
But everyone agreed, however, on how amazing 13-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclar sounded on one of the most divalicious songs of all, Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."
"Britney, it pains me to say this, it really does," L.A. admitted. "I don't want to say this, but...we could be looking at the winner."
Paige Thomas got all four judges in her corner, too, with Donna Summer's "Last Dance," though Simon found the choregraphy distracting. Fifth Harmony, each member of which carried her weight on Mariah Carey's "Hero," also charmed. And we thought Vino Alan killed Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," but only Britney and L.A. agreed.
Demi praised his voice but said she got bored watching him. Huh?!
"I'm not trying to get people to vote for this group intentionally, but I just want everyone to know at home, they saved some kittens drowning in a lake this week and risked their own lives," Simon said in introducing Emblem3. "Just thought I'd mention that."
No need to lay it on so thick, Simon! The trio worked their usual 311-reminiscent magic on Alicia Keys' "No One" and won raves all around.
Not so magical were Arin Ray and CeCe Frey, who came in 11th and 12th last week in the voting.
Arin looked pretty dejected after taking on Madonna's "Crazy for You," a task he clearly wasn't up for. Demi, once again, was bored and actually told the poor lad he lacked soul. Simon told him, "For you, taking on that song was like asking a cat to eat a tiger."
Speaking of big cats, CeCe ditched the spots but probably didn't win any new votes with a pitchy "All By Myself," which was all over the vocal map.
"Hater! Sorry she was better than your Vino," Demi said, sing-song, to L.A. when he expressed mixed feelings about CeCe's sound and look.
Um, who's the hater here again?